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Pence calls speculation on 2020 run against Trump ‘laughable’

Vice President Mike Pence, in a statement Sunday,

Vice President Mike Pence, in a statement Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, fiercely denied speculation he is positioning himself to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020. Credit: Getty Images / Chip Somodevilla

Vice President Mike Pence pushed back fiercely Sunday on speculation that he is positioning himself to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020, calling such suggestions “laughable and absurd.”

He was responding to a New York Times report about the field of potential Republican candidates seeking to unseat Trump, listing Pence and Ohio Gov. John Kasich as among the possibilities.

The outlet said Pence has cemented himself as the strongest link between the GOP donor class and the administration, preparing for a shot at the Oval Office if Trump doesn’t run again.

But Trump has given no indication that he would decline to seek a second term.

Pence with an angry statement said he was all in for Trump.

“Today’s article in The New York Times is disgraceful and offensive to me, my family, and our entire team,” he said. “The allegations in this article are categorically false and represent just the latest attempt by the media to divide this Administration.”

Pence said his team will “focus all our efforts to advance the President’s agenda and see him re-elected in 2020. Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway also dismissed the idea of Pence gearing up to challenge Trump.

“Zero concern. That is complete fiction. That is complete fabrication,” she told ABC News’ “This Week” Sunday of a shadow campaign by Pence.

She added, “It is absolutely true that the vice president is getting ready for 2020, for re-election as vice president.”

Meanwhile, Kasich — a Trump critic — appeared Sunday on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” to discuss his effort with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, to find a bipartisan health care solution.

“If you want to solve problems, whether it’s immigration or whether it’s the issue of health care, you’ve got to grow your majority from the middle out,” Kasich said.

Trump spent Sunday at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, where he is in the midst of a 17-day working vacation.

White House officials would not say whether he was golfing or what his day’s agenda entailed.

Also Sunday:

  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein vowed to investigate leakers in the federal government, but said the Department of Justice is not going after individuals. Rosenstein said that, with a surge in criminal referrals about leaking, his department would devote more resources and investigate “in an appropriate way.”

“Criminal prosecution isn’t the only way to prevent leaks, but it’s an important part of the solution,” Rosenstein said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We’re after the leakers, not the journalists. We’re after people who are committing crimes.”

  • Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) discussed their bipartisan legislation to protect the special counsel overseeing Russia-related probes from being ousted by the president. The proposal would require that a judge review any move by the president to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

“It’s a necessary part of just continuing to improve the reputation of independence for the Department of Justice,” Tillis told ABC’s “This Week.” “This is something that lives beyond this special counsel. It provides the president with the opportunity to consult with the AG [attorney general] and the Department of Justice, potentially have one removed, but have that subject to a judicial review so that we make sure it’s done for proper cause.”

Conway said Trump “has not even discussed” firing Mueller.

The president has criticized the potential conflicts of interest among members of Mueller’s investigating team and denounced the ongoing probes into Russian meddling in the 2016 election — and any role his campaign may have played — as a “witch hunt.”

  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally, told CNN’s “State of The Union” Sunday that convening a grand jury — as news outlets have reported Mueller is doing in his Russia probe — is a “normal step taken by a careful prosecutor who is doing a thorough investigation.” Christie, a Republican, called Mueller a “good man.”

“I trust that he will be very careful to try not to go on a fishing expedition. There’s always a temptation to do that. I hope that that’s not what he does,” the governor said.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday he believed that initiating a grand jury “is a significant development, not particularly unexpected,” which signals that the Russia investigation “is moving into a new phase.”

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